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ASCRS Government Relations Committee Chair Parag Parekh, MD, Testifies at Congressional Hearing on MACRA/MIPS Implementation and Preserving Fee-for-Service on Behalf of the Alliance of Specialty Medicine

Yesterday, ASCRS Government Relations Committee Chair Parag Parekh, MD, MPA, testified on behalf of the Alliance of Specialty Medicine before the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee at a hearing titled “MACRA and MIPS: An Update on the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System.”

In his opening remarks, Health Subcommittee Chairman Michael Burgess, MD (R-TX) said the passing of MACRA in 2015 “changed the world of Medicare provider payments as we knew it. It has laid the groundwork for increased access to quality care for beneficiaries by eliminating the uncertainty of the past, reducing physician burden, and providing incentives where there were none.” He also noted, however, that “MACRA was never a law that was going to be fully implemented with a flip of a switch; it was designed as a long-term effort to move the Medicare program down the value continuum.”

Chairman Burgess and other members of the committee thanked the five witnesses for testifying and helping them to learn how the implementation of MACRA and the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System is progressing—and how they are affecting physicians and their patients.

In addition to Dr. Parekh, witnesses included Dr. David Barbe, immediate past president of the AMA; Dr. Frank Opelka, medical director of quality and health policy for the American College of Surgeons; Dr. Ashok Rai, American Medical Group Association chairman of the board; and Dr. Kurt Ransohoff, chairman of the board for America’s Physicians Groups.

Dr. Parekh focused his testimony on thanking Congress for passing technical corrections to the MACRA statute, as well as the importance of maintaining a fee-for-service option in Medicare. He shared the experience of ophthalmology as a specialty in MIPS and described how the technical corrections passed earlier this year make it easier for physicians to continue transitioning to the program. Ophthalmology has had a high level of participation, and the overwhelming majority of ophthalmologists reached the “exceptional performance” threshold in 2017, the first year of MIPS. He stressed that our success in MIPS, as well as the lack of Advanced Alternative Payment Models for ophthalmology and other specialties, demonstrates the need to maintain a viable Medicare fee-for-service option and MIPS. Dr. Parekh recognized the recently released 2019 Quality Payment Program proposed rule and the continued transition that will afford physicians, particularly specialists, the ability to continue to participate meaningfully in the MIPS program. He also commented on the value of electronic health records (EHR) and AAO’s IRIS Registry to ophthalmologists, saying that these resources facilitate participation and success in MIPS.

All the witnesses thanked Congress for repealing the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) payment formula and passing MACRA, and all agreed when asked by Chairman Burgess that the physician community is better off today than under SGR and other previous payment systems. They also agreed, however, that it is imperative to continue to refine MIPS.

For more details, witness statements can be found on the committee’s website, where the hearing can be viewed in its entirety.